Sunday, November 28, 2010

When psychological research studies
are used as weapons of religious polemics:
The case of the Pentecostal Churches /

Όταν μελέτες της ψυχολογικής έρευνας
χρησιμοποιούνται ως όπλα θρησκευτικής πολεμικής:
Η περίπτωση των Εκκλησιών της Πεντηκοστής

«McDonnell, Gritzmacher and colleagues, and Kay agree in distinguishing clearly between two periods in psychological research of Pentecostalism, a primarily “hostile” period from the beginning in 1910 up to the 1960s, followed by a more “friendly” period beginning in the 1960s and continuing to the present.

In the primarily “hostile” period, research was based on the underlying hypothesis that Pentecostalism is an expression or direct consequence of abnormal psychological processes and mental disorders. Consequently, research employed mainly a psychopathological framework using concepts such as schizophrenia, hysteria, regression, emotional instability, immaturity, neuroticism, or dogmatism. McDonnell emphasizes that most of the respondents were members of the lower social classes and that most of the research was methodologically insufficient, for instance, practicing observation without a controlled methodology. However, all three reviews agree on the conclusion that most of the elicited data did not foster the general underlying hypothesis that the experiences and behaviors of Pentecostals are caused by or correlated with psychopathology. The persistence of the hostile perspective over more than four decades, despite the fact that data did not clearly support the hypotheses, emphasizes that a specifically chosen set of presuppositions for scientific research with respect to controversial issues can be placed in ideological frameworks.

In the more recent, “friendly” period, research has focused more on normal personality characteristics and concepts indicating psychological stability. McDonnell emphasizes that the respondents were mainly middle- and upper-class Pentecostals. Methodologically, the research in this period is much more sophisticated. Kay stresses that recent research is theologically better informed and more interdisciplinary. The data support the general hypothesis that the experiences and behaviors of Pentecostals are adaptive. Its results overturned most of the findings of the first period.

In sum, psychological research has progressed from viewing Pentecostalism from a perspective of abnormal psychology using concepts of psychopathology and social deprivation to a perspective of normal psychology investigating nonpathological, normal personality characteristics associated with Pentecostalism. This change of perspective reveals that scientific psychology is not as objective and unbiased as sometimes supposed. On the contrary, it depends strongly on value judgments of individual psychologists as well as of the scientific community, determining the selection of specific topics, the specific groups studied, the theoretical concepts, and the methodology applied. Obviously, the scientific community has changed its value judgment concerning Pentecostalism. Because the scientific system is dependent on other social systems, this change may reflect the change in value judgments of the society as a whole.»

* Allan Anderson, Michael Bergunder, Andre F. Droogers & Cornelis van der Laan,
Studying Global Pentecostalism: Theories and Methods (The Anthropology of Christianity)
[Μελέτη του Παγκόσμιου Πεντηκοστιανισμού: Θεωρίες και Μέθοδοι (Η Ανθρωπολογία του Χριστιανισμού)],
University of California Press,
pp./σσ. 135, 136.

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